A “Parents Bill of Rights” has cleared the way for a vote in the N.C. Senate after it was discussed Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Rules Committee.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the bill would reaffirm the rights that parents have in reference to the education and health of their children. He also said it would not put an extra burden on teachers because it should be affirming what teachers should already be doing by keeping parents informed on what is going on in the classroom.
Senate leaders in the N.C. General Assembly outlined the measure in a press conference last week, saying that it established a parent’s right to request information about what their child is learning in school, including lessons, textbooks, tutoring services, and other details about how their child and their school are operating. Schools would be required to develop a system for parents to access that information, but the bill would not codify parents’ rights to choose their child’s school or learning environment.
The measures were added to the House’s Academic Transparency bill from last session, and would require that parents are informed of any health-care services their child is receiving, including telling a parent about any changes in their child’s physical or mental health, and whether their child requests a change in their name or pronouns.
The bill also directs that issues like gender identity and sexual orientation may not be a part of the official curriculum until after third grade. There would be no ban on incidental discussion of the topic in lower grades.
The measure, a proposed committee substitute for House Bill 755, would affirm a set of parental rights, including the right to direct the education of their child and access to healthcare records. The measure also directs the State Board of Education to create a parents’ guide to student achievement with a set of minimum requirements, plus laying an avenue for parents to learn about textbooks and supplementary materials in the classroom and object to those if they so desire.
Several people spoke out against the bill during the committee meeting, including Sarah Mikhail, executive director of Time Out Youth, a Charlotte LGBTQ support organization. She said the bill will add a strain to the resources that are available. She cited a study that said most LGBTQ youths are bullied in school and are afraid to tell their teachers because they don’t think anything will be done.
“This bill all but guarantees that those young people will have to keep their stories a secret and increase their risk of suicide and this bill certainly creates more problems for teachers, for educators, for parents, than causes any solution. I urge you not to pass this bill to protect all children in North Carolina, not just those who are LGBTQ,” she said.
Tyler Beall, a resident of Guilford County, said the bill is a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that targets LGBTQ youth because it mentions that parents be notified if their child changes the pronoun in which they use to describe themselves.
“You will be instituting a culture of fear,” he said. “Students will be too afraid to ask school personnel for help.”
He went on to say that lawmakers failed to defend queer students by allowing Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s comments in which Beall said he called LGBTQ people, including himself, “filth.” “Filth. Is that me here, standing right now? Am I filth to you? Is that really the culture you want our students and children growing up in?” He asked the bill “not be rammed through” along party lines.
Eloise Robinson, a former kindergarten, second, and third-grade teacher, spoke in support of the bill, telling lawmakers that she is really worried about what is going on in the schools in North Carolina. She said children are not learning, and the curriculum is full of things that are political and sexual. She said children can’t read or do math and when the curriculum is watered down by political ideology and trying to indoctrinate children, teachers can’t do their jobs.
Robinson told lawmakers that when she taught kindergarten she never had a child that told her they were gay or wanted to change their sex.
“The reason is these are young, innocent children,” she said. “They believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. They are not interested in sex. The teachers don’t need to be teaching that because it is age inappropriate. I want to thank you for giving parents back the rights that they used to have.”
“As this bill recognizes, parents have a fundamental right to the care, upbringing, and education of their children,’ said John Rustin, president, and executive director of the NC Family Policy Council. “Unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances these days where the interest of parents and families are being overlooked, ignored, and condemned. This bill will help to ensure that the rights and interests of parents are not only acknowledged but especially followed in the areas of education and healthcare.”
Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, questioned a system where a child could be diagnosed or receive mental or physical health treatment without the notification to a parent while also needing two separate signed forms from a child’s doctor and from the child’s parents so the child could be allowed to take an over-the-counter medication at school, such as the case with his own son. He said it isn’t the responsibility of the school to make decisions in parenting.
“Anytime that you are going to have the public school system supersede parents and decide what is best for a child based on their limited interaction, especially in this, put them in the medical treatment or mental health treatment, and cut out the parents without going through the legal process to show there is abuse or neglect in the family just because the school thinks it is right is abhorrent to me,” Hise told Carolina Journal after the meeting.
“It would be a reason that many parents would choose not to be part of the public school system because it isn’t their role. Anytime a child is in a difficult and stressful situation, the solution has to involve their parents, their support networks, and their school coming together with one mission.”
He said when children are going through difficult situations like this, it is the responsibility of the school to bring in the parents.
The bill could face a vote by the full Senate on Wednesday.